Ash Wednesday

Residents of Dustin, Pennsylvania claim there are no secrets in their decaying mountain village. But sometimes it’s hard to determine what’s true. As pastor of Abiding Truth Lutheran Church, Gerald Schwartz provides fodder for gossip. His wife left him for a lesbian relationship, he dulls his senses with alcohol, and antagonistic parishioners are plotting to fire him.

Gerald’s secretary, Betty Mundy, knows of their plans but she has her own problems. Initially overjoyed after her son breaks his engagement with his snooty fiancé, she is horrified when he announces he is gay. Betty blames herself and seeks to “cure” him, aware that everyone in town will soon know his secret.

Her son attends a thriving church that offers worship with electric guitars and the rite of Holy Communion as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Despite his success, the church’s handsome and self-absorbed pastor, Allan Weiss, has problems too— his sexual indiscretions threaten to destroy his marriage and career.

These individuals’ fates are entangled in a story involving same-sex and sexless marriages, legal and illegal abortions, timely and untimely deaths, and featuring a variety of eccentric yet endearing characters. Throughout the fast-paced narrative Eppley spoofs numerous aspects of contemporary American Christianity including Jesus sightings, speaking in tongues, doomsday prophecies, bad religious poetry, and online Christian dating services, among other things.

Ash Wednesday will appeal to fans of authors such as Anne Lamott, Jon Hassler and Garrison Keillor, readers of religious and cultural satire, and maybe even a few open-minded churchgoers. The novel’s ironic twists reveal that people from all walks of life are more likely to see what they believe than to believe what they see.
ash wednesday

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